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Friday, August 07, 2009

'Angels & Demons'

Featured Reviewer: JIM SLOTEK - Sun Media

Starring: Tom Hanks ... Robert Langdon

Ewan McGregor ... Camerlengo Patrick McKenna

Ayelet Zurer ... Vittoria Vetra

Stellan SkarsgÄrd ... Commander Richter

Pierfrancesco Favino ... Inspector Olivetti

Nikolaj Lie Kaas ... Assassin

Armin Mueller-Stahl ... Cardinal Strauss

Thure Lindhardt ... Chartrand

David Pasquesi ... Claudio Vincenzi

Cosimo Fusco ... Father Simeon

Victor Alfieri ... Lieutenant Valenti

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons

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Synopsis: Warning! This synopsis contains spoilers
Under the watchful eye of Father Silvano Bentivoglio and Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), the CERN scientists start the Large Hadron Collider and manage to capture three vials of antimatter. Immediately afterward, someone kills Father Silvano, and uses his retina to break into the containment room to steal one vial of anti-matter.

In Rome, the Vatican mourns the passing of the Pope. The Vatican staff prepares for the Conclave of the College of Cardinals, which will select the next Pope. Until the Conclave selects a new Pope, the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) assumes day-to-day control of the Vatican. Reporters, nuns, priests and other faithful all crowd into St. Peter's Square, waiting for the white smoke from the Conclave. But the Illuminati, a 400-year old, underground secret society, kidnaps the four most likely candidates (preferratti) before the Conclave goes into seclusion. The Illuminati threatens to kill them at 8, 9, 10 and 11 PM, and then destroy the Vatican in a burst of light at midnight. A video feed shows the missing anti-matter vial, which will destroy the Vatican and parts of nearby Rome when the magnetic containment field fails.

The Vatican summons Drs. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Vittoria Vetra from CERN to help them solve the Illuminati's threat, save the four preferratti, and replace the vial vial's batteries. Langdon listens to the Illuminati message and deduces that the four cardinals will die at the four alters of the Path of Illumination. However, no one knows where these alters are located. Vetra demands the Swiss Guard fly Father Silvano's diaries from Switzerland. They hope he wrote down the name of whomever he discussed the CERN experiment. Langdon demands access to the Vatican Library (something he has requested 10 times already) to see the original copy of Galileo's banned book. Using the clue from this book, Langdon, Vetra, and Lieutenant Valenti (Victor Alfieri) of the Vatican police race to the first church, only to find the body of the first Cardinal, branded with the word, Earth (in English!). They find the direction of the church with the seond Illuminati alter, but arrive in time to see the next Cardinal die, branded with the word Air. Langdon locates the third church with the third Illuminati altar, but tries to save the third Cardinal from burning to death, while the assassin kills the Vatican policemen. He convinces the Rome police to race to the last church of the Water alter, and manages to save the last Cardinal. However, location of the last Illuminati altar remains in question.

When Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret scientific society known as the Illuminati - the most powerful underground organization in history - he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization's most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and enigmatic Italian scientist. Embarking on a nonstop, action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra will follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican's only hope for survival.

Angels and Demons was the reclusive authors third novel after he gave up his job as an English teacher. It tells the story of Langdons brush with a shadowy secret society, the Illuminati, and his frantic quest for the worlds most powerful energy source, in the company of a beautiful Italian physicist whose father, a brilliant physicist, has been murdered.

The team behind the global phenomenon "The Da Vinci Code" returns for the highly anticipated "Angels & Demons," based upon the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard religious expert Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance their goals. Ron Howard again directs the film, which is produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and John Calley. The screenplay is by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman.

It is Ron Howard's excellence in directing such films as "A Beautiful Mind" that make this film so superb. It also lies in the simple things that keep characters like Hanks true to life, with his wearing of a simple Mickey Mouse watch, much like the truth to Russell Crowe playing John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind" and admitting to "taking the newer medications." Howard is excellent in depicting the simplicity of complexity and complex issues. (Top 5 Contributors: ysc, peter-925, clubone37, chefjudy, scouterdap )

Review: by JIM SLOTEK - Sun Media

Ron Howard now says he was too faithful to The Da Vinci Code, and felt liberated to cut freely with his movie of the other Dan Brown best-seller, Angels & Demons.

Trouble is, Angels & Demons -- which was actually Brown's first book starring symbologist/Vatican-bete-noir Robert Langdon -- can be charitably described as a "fat-free" thriller. Whatever you cut is pure bone.

Which means a whole first act of yakety yak to explain missing chapters of story -- just your first hint that, as terrific a filmmaker as Howard is in other genres, there's one he's only average at -- action movies.

Despite cerebral-sounding trailers that are all about Byzantine plots and secret societies, Angels & Demons is a simple, breathless action thriller, like the Bourne films' dumber brother, or an episode of 24.

You've got an anti-matter bomb in the Vatican, and four Cardinals kidnapped on the eve of a Papal conclave, with a promise from the kidnapper to kill one every hour leading up to the main event.

You've got clues left by the villains (ostensibly the ancient secret society known as The Illuminati) leading you around the city of Rome, and a guy (Tom Hanks) with almost superhuman abilities to solve said clues.

Simple, huh?

Bourne's Paul Greengrass would make mincemeat of it. God help me, Michael Bay could make a decent popcorn movie out of it.

Howard, however, doesn't go much beyond Langdon running and talking and thinking and running.

Among things excised from novel-to-script: physical struggles between Langdon and the assassin (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), and a romance with physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), designer of the anti-matter retrieval process. Which means no butt-kicking and no love interest. You call this an action movie?

Presented as a sequel to the events in The Da Vinci Code, we jump from the bloody theft of the anti-matter at the CERN lab in Switzerland to Langdon doing laps in a pool Stateside.

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons

Double-sided poster

Buy at


There, a Vatican official appears to tell him about the anti-matter bomb and the kidnappings, and to fly him in for his date with destiny and Roman rush-hour traffic. (A funny thing about Angels & Demons is how quickly Langdon gets miles across Rome in minutes -- when in real life, drivers leave their cars in the street to buy an espresso, knowing it will still be stuck there when they return).

With the death of the pope, decision-making falls by decree to his assistant, the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor, phoning it in), a devout young man with a secret.

His main problem: convincing the senior Cardinals and the Swiss Guard, led by the surly Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard), that he has the authority to let Langdon loose in the Vatican Archives and ultimately, to evacuate The Vatican itself.

Within said archives, Langdon and Vetra find Galileo's secret Path of Illumination map. Bernini statues of angels point this way and that, from the Santa Maria del Popolo to Piazza Navona to Castel Sant'Angelo, etc. -- clues all unravelled instantly by the steeltrap mind of Langdon, who then runs off, explaining his deductions between breaths.

Why does this take nearly two-and-a-half hours -- albeit breathless ones?

As my priest used to say when I'd ask annoying questions in Catechism, "It's a mystery, my son."


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